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Epilepsy Drug Taken in Pregnancy Found Safe in Preschool Child Development

A new study finds that the epilepsy drug levetiracetam appears not to be associated with thinking, movement and language problems for preschool children born to mothers who took the drug during pregnancy, although the drug valproate was associated with some difficulties in preschoolers. The study is published in the January 8, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“These results are heartening, as the use of levetiracetam has increased in recent years, but there has been limited information on its effect on the thinking, movement and language abilities of children.

However this is the first study to look at the effects of levetiracetam and further research is needed before we can be certain there are no associations. It is very important that women do not stop taking their medication before speaking to their healthcare professional,” said study author Rebekah Shallcross, PhD, of the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

The study involved 53 children exposed to levetiracetam, 44 children whose mothers took valproate and 151 children whose mothers did not have epilepsy and did not take any drugs during pregnancy. The children were age three to four-and-a-half. Tests evaluated their development in areas such as thinking, movement and language abilities.

The study found that children exposed to levetiracetam did not differ from children not exposed to epilepsy drugs on any scale administered. Children who were exposed to valproate, however, scored an average of 16 points lower on movement tests, 10 points lower on expressive language tests and six points lower on language comprehension measures than those exposed to levetiracetam.

The study was supported by UCB Pharma.

To learn more about epilepsy, please visit

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 26,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit

Rachel L. Seroka | American Academy of Neurology
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